Putnam girls appear headed for their best season in decades

by: JOHN LARIVIERE - Weary, but proud, Putnam players took a moment to thank their fellow students for their support following last Friday nights 43-36 win over Liberty. The Kingsmen are off to their best start in girls basketball in decades.Move over Oregon City, Clackamas, West Linn, La Salle and Gladstone, and make room for the Rex Putnam Kingsmen.

North Clackamas County has been a hotbed for high school girls basketball this winter, with Oregon City, Clackamas, West Linn, La Salle and Gladstone all in the top 10 in the state in coaches’ polls.

Putnam girls are making a case that they also deserve recognition.

After playing a super tough preseason schedule that included several competitive 6A and 5A programs, the Kingsmen have taken the Northwest Oregon Conference by storm.

With wins over 2013 NWOC runner-up Liberty (43-36) and St. Helens (52-25) in games last week, the Kingsmen improved their conference record to 6-0 and their season record to 8-7.

They conclude the first round of the conference season on Friday, playing Wilsonville (5-10, 2-4) on the road.

The Kingsmen appear well on their way towards their first winning season since 1986-87 and perhaps their first league championship since way back in 1981-82, when they went 17-1 (19-3 overall) in the Wilco League.

“It’s really exciting to know that we’re the first team to do this well in such a long time,” said Putnam senior co-captain Ali Schooley. “It’s kind of overwhelming. This [crowd tonight] is the biggest crowd that Putnam girls, or even Putnam boys basketball, has had in a long, long time.”

“Playing harder teams in preseason helped prepare us for this,” said Putnam senior co-captain Mariah Oliver. “We were close in most of our games with 6A teams, so we knew we could take these guys in 5A.”

“It was a little nerve-racking [losing so many games in preseason],” said Schooley. “But once we beat Sherwood, I knew we could beat everyone else in the league....

“Our goal’s to go all the way [to a state championship], and I think we can do it.”

“We talk about it every day at practice, and we’re working hard to make it happen,” said Oliver.

“It’s our goal, but we’re still going to take it a game at a time,” said Schooley. “Each game is a step towards our goal. We’re going to keep working hard in practice, come out hard as we can in every game, and not let up.”

Determination and defense were huge in last Friday’s win over the visiting Liberty Falcons.

Although Putnam led in every quarter, the Falcons held the lead for most of the first three quarters, after going up 13-3 to start the game.

The Kingsmen, who pressed on defense throughout the game, upped their intensity on defense and took charge of things in the fourth quarter. They went on a 10-0 run to start the quarter, forcing turnovers on the Falcons’ first five possessions.

Schooley put the Kingsmen up for good, at 33-32, a minute into the final period, taking an outlet pass from Oliver following a steal, and scoring on a lay-up.

Moments later, Schooley stole the ball herself, was fouled on the fast break and hit two free throws, upping the Kingsmen lead to 35-32.

Schooley stole the ball again on the Falcons’ ensuring possession. She was fouled on another fast break attempt, hit two more free throws, and the Falcons were on the ropes, trailing 37-32.

Oliver connected from downtown to make it 40-32 with 4:23 remaining.

Schooley stole the sphere again, and the Kingsmen spread the floor and made enough free throws to hold the Falcons off for the 43-36 victory.

Except for a horrendous night of shooting, the Kingsmen would have turned the game into a rout. They hit only 14-of-49 shots from the floor (.286) for the game.

Putnam’s harassing full-court defense was pivotal. Through their full- and half-court defensive pressure, the Kingsmen forced 30 turnovers, which led to 15 extra field goal attempts. The Falcons were 12-of-34 (.353) from the field on the night.

Putnam was a super cold one-of-12 from the field in the first quarter.

“We’ve been very average in our shooting,” said Putnam coach Otis Oliver. “Our defense has kept us around. We’ve been working very diligently on becoming a better jump-shooting team.... The girls are working hard in practice. Once our shots start dropping, it’s going to be a nightmare for somebody.”

Sophomore post Angela Arrington (10 points), Oliver (9 points), Schooley (8 points) and senior wing Kelsea Baton (7 points) were Putnam’s top point-getters in last Friday’s win.

Baton (4 steals), Oliver (4 steals), Schooley (3 steals) and freshman post Haley Brandel (3 steals) headed up the defense.

Putnam junior guard Carly Bolander and Oliver defended against and made things tough on Liberty star wing McKenzie Oster. The 5-9 senior all-star scored just six points, hitting two 3-pointers in the first half.

Alyssa Grenfell, a 5-10 sophomore guard, scored 10 points, to head up the Falcon offense.

Brandel and Arrington led Putnam to a 25-19 edge on the backboards, each with six rebounds.

The St. Helens Lions pleaded no contest in their Jan. 28 girls basketball game with the Kingsmen.

Putnam led 15-0 at the end of the first quarter and 29-6 at halftime.

“They struggled to get the ball up the floor,” said Putnam assistant coach Kris Leatherman. “Our pressure overwhelmed them.”

The Kingsmen forced 34 turnovers, led by Bolander (4 steals) and senior wing Shelby VanLeuven (4 steals).

Mariah Oliver was at the lead on the fast break, scoring a game-high 11 points and assisting on eight baskets.

Bolander tallied 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting.

“The girls are internally motivated,” coach Oliver said. “They’ve bought into the program. They’re believing and they’re seeing that hard work does pay off.”

Oliver added, “I’d like to thank our home crowd. They were great tonight. They’re the reason we won this game. Our student body was fabulous. And I’ve got to thank our youth teams and the parents and community for coming out and supporting us. I hope they come back.”

Putnam boys continued to struggle to put a league game in the win column last week, losing to St. Helens 77-57 and to Liberty 81-76. But they gave Liberty a game, taking the Falcons to four overtimes before yielding.

Byron Greenlee, a 6-3 junior post, was Putnam’s nemesis, scoring 17 of his of his game-high 24 points in the four overtimes.

David Vasquez and Calvin Spencer scored 22 and 21 points respectively to lead Putnam. Vasquez was 10-of-10 from the free throw line for the game and he scored 9 points in the overtimes.

With the win, Liberty improved to 4-2 in the NWOC (10-6 overall); Putnam slipped to 0-6 in conference (1-14 overall) with the loss.

Drew O’Dell (16 points) and Vasquez (15 points) were Putnam’s top point-getters in the loss to St. Helens.

Milwaukie’s boys and girls basketball teams both put games in the win column in play last Friday.

Tyler Spencer (26 points), Vasiliy Voznyuk (12 points), Grant Loudon (11 points) and Miliak Rood (10 points) all scored in double figures in Milwaukie boys’ rout of Parkrose.

“We turned it around in the fourth quarter,” said Milwaukie coach Scott Bays. “We outscored them 27-10 in the fourth quarter....

“Miliak played great defense on their best player. Tyler was great all night. He had 112 rebounds and five blocks to go with his 26 points....

“The turning point was in the fourth quarter when Vasiliy scored and got fouled, hit a three, and then scored another basket. All of a sudden we were up by 10.”

Milwaukie boys (4-11, 3-3) play at Sandy (14-2, 5-1) this Friday, while Milwaukie girls (7-8, 4-2) entertain their Pioneer (9-6, 4-2) counterparts.

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